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Russian deputy premier denies insulting Madonna in tweet

U.S. singer Madonna performs during her concert in St. Petersburg, Russia, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012. (AP Photo/ Alexander Demianchuk, Pool)

MOSCOW/ ST. PETERSBURG: Russia’s deputy prime minister has said he did not insult Madonna on Twitter ahead of her Saint Petersburg concert in which she spoke in defense of gay rights.

The outspoken lawmaker, Dmitry Rogozin, tweeted a Russian abbreviation Wednesday that was widely interpreted as an insult aimed at Madonna.

In his tweet, Rogozin used the letter “b”, which can sometimes refer to an offensive Russian word for “whore.”

“Every former b. seeks to lecture everyone on morality as she gets older. Especially during tours and gigs abroad,” Rogozin tweeted.

“Either take off your cross, or put on your knickers,” he added.

After media outlets picked up the comments, the former NATO envoy said on Facebook Thursday that he meant no offense and the abbreviation could refer to many things including “goddess” or “ballerina.”

“And they immediately linked my comments with the so-called ‘Madonna’ (goddamn her) even though I did not say a word about her.”

At her Saint Petersburg concert Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s home town, Madonna spoke in support of the gay community in an often homophobic nation.

Performing in black lingerie with the words “No Fear” scrawled on her bare back, Madonna urged the audience to “show your love and appreciation to the gay community.

“We want to fight for the right to be free,” she said.

The American singer has turned a two-concert tour into a platform for comment on Putin’s Russia.

In Moscow Tuesday, she told a crowd she prays for the release of three members of the band Pussy Riot, who prosecutors want jailed for three years for their “punk prayer” criticizing Putin on the altar of Russia’s main cathedral.

She also told Reuters Television that the three women had been treated unfairly and suggested they were victims of censorship.

Madonna had promised to use her St. Petersburg show to speak out against legislation adopted by the city in March that imposes fines for spreading homosexual “propaganda” that could “damage the health, moral and spiritual development” of minors.

On her Facebook page, she called the law a “ridiculous atrocity.”

Homosexuality, punished with jail terms in the Soviet Union, was decriminalized in Russia in 1993, but much of the homosexual community remains largely underground as anti-gay prejudice runs deep.

“Do we live in fear?” Madonna asked her audience Thursday night. “No!” came the reply. “We love you!” shouted some fans, but not everybody was thrilled.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 11, 2012, on page 10.

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